By Kathleen Gilbert

WASHINGTON, D.C., October 26, 2009 ( – A petition to the Federal Communications Commissioner (FCC) to investigate popular conservative commentators such as Rush Limbaugh for purported “hate speech” has caused a stir among Catholic circles after it was revealed that the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops' (USCCB) communications office is backing the initiative. 

One conservative commentator has even cited evidence that the religious coalition behind the petition, of which the USCCB communications office is a part, may be affiliated with the federal government's recent campaign against conservative media.
“So We Might See,” a group billing itself as a national interfaith coalition against hate speech in media, is calling on supporters to sign a letter to FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski urging him to open a notice of inquiry into “hate speech” among the media establishment.

Though affirming that “hate speech is present in every form of media,” the coalition's website pegs the largely-conservative radio broadcast media outlet as a main culprit.  As examples of “hate speech,” the group cites radio host Rush Limbaugh calling Mexican immigrants “a renegade, potential crime element that is unwilling to work,” and radio host Michael Savage's suggestion that terrorists are using Mexican immigrants as “mules” carrying the H1N1 virus into America.  “Mule” is a slang term usually referring to illegal drug couriers.

In a letter to the FCC, the coalition suggests that the 2006 assault of two Mexicans by New York teenagers accusing them of stealing jobs from U.S. citizens resulted from Limbaugh's statement, broadcast three months prior. 

“We are concerned about this issue because of the possible connection between hate speech and violent hate crimes and the lack of information for members of the public concerned about the issue,” wrote the coalition.

The coalition lists the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops Office of Communications as a member, along with seven other groups, on a Web site hosted by the United Church of Christ (UCC).

Catholic author Deal Hudson expressed shock at the USCCB's involvement with the coalition. 

“Hate speech that demonstrably leads directly to violence is repugnant and should be called to task by people of faith,” wrote Hudson.  “But the efforts of So We Might See are so transparently partisan and political that the USCCB should have nothing to do with it. It's an obvious attempt to undermine the influence of conservative talk radio, pure and simple.”

“Diogenes,” the popular pseudonymous Catholic blogger who broke the story, commented: “Lenin said that when the time comes to hang the reactionaries, the capitalists themselves will sell the rope. He never said the same sort of thing about the Catholic Church. He was born too soon.”

Other commentators saw an even deeper difficulty with the So We Might See coalition: American Spectator columnist Jeffrey Lord, himself a local UCC leader, pointed out in a column last week that conservative pundits Glenn Beck and Lou Dobbs were also singled out in the coalition's mass e-mail, exhorting members of the United Church of Christ to sign on to the petition. 

Lord expressed suspicion that the coalition was actually collaborating with the federal government, which has shown itself increasingly antagonistic towards conservative media, in hunting down only conservative hosts.  Federal Communications Commissioner Michael J. Copps, he noted, had mentioned attending an “important luncheon meeting” with the So We Might See coalition at a speech in New York City on September 30.

“There is an organized campaign now afoot, a carefully planned, well-funded systematic assault on talk radio and Fox News that involves at least seven major liberal American religious denominations,” wrote Lord. 

“All of whom are apparently planning to spread the gospel that talk radio and Fox News personalities are spreading hate speech.”

To respectfully express concern:

List of all U.S. Bishops with contact info

Ms. Helen Osman, USCCB Secretary of Communications
Ms. Elaine Gaisey, Executive Assistant
Phone: 202-541-3320
Fax: 202-541-3179
E-mail: [email protected]

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